Huge fights able to shake up nearly each division
Two of the extra unheralded UFC weight lessons had an opportunity to indicate out final month.
In the principle occasion of UFC 277 on July 30, Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes had their rematch for the UFC girls’s bantamweight title, following Peña’s big upset over Nunes at UFC 269 final December. Former champion Brandon Moreno took on Kai Kara-France within the co-main occasion with the interim UFC flyweight title on the road.
The 2 fights delivered. Nunes won a dominant unanimous decision to win the title again, however Peña’s inventory did not go down. If something, the guts and can Peña confirmed staying within the struggle and attempting to complete regardless of getting bludgeoned by Nunes’ elbows made her a fair larger star. Maybe a trilogy struggle can be within the offing to settle the rating.
In the meantime, Moreno completed Kara-France with a vicious operating left kick to the liver within the third spherical. The bout was very aggressive up till that time, with the judges’ scorecards everywhere, however Moreno received the job with one of many 12 months’s greatest knockouts. Now, Moreno will seemingly get a fourth assembly with rival Deiveson Figueiredo, the flyweight champion in earnest, in a unification bout.
In Could, ESPN’s panel placed men’s flyweight at No. 8 and women’s bantamweight tied for ninth. Might the robust performances by all 4 athletes elevate the shares of their respective divisions? And the way do the remainder of the varied UFC weight lessons stack up? ESPN’s newest divisional energy rankings are under.
Observe: All year long, our panel is rating all 12 weight lessons from prime to backside, taking inventory of which divisions are performing the perfect now and which divisions have the perfect pound-for-pound fighters.
1. Light-weight: 155 kilos
For a weight class that doesn’t have a champion, light-weight is spectacular with a number of of the perfect and most fun fighters on this planet calling it residence. That lack of a champion factor — the results of Charles Oliveira missing weight at UFC 274 in Could — ought to right itself at UFC 280 on Oct. 22. Oliveira and Makhachev will meet for the title in Abu Dhabi in what’s an intriguing stylistic matchup. Oliveira’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu and opportunistic submissions can be towards Makhachev’s smothering wrestling and grappling. On the identical card, maybe the subsequent title challenger will emerge in a bout between Beneil Dariush and Mateusz Gamrot.
In the meantime, it seems like a extremely anticipated struggle between Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler will occur earlier than the top of the 12 months, doubtlessly as quickly as UFC 281 on Nov. 12 in New York. These two received right into a heated verbal altercation at UFC 276 final month. Oliveira has overwhelmed each of them, but when Makhachev wins the title, it can speak in confidence to recent matchups on the prime of the division. The Poirier vs. Chandler winner might simply turn out to be the No. 1 contender. — Marc Raimondi
2. Males’s Bantamweight: 135 kilos
Earlier rating: No. 3
Champion: Aljamain Sterling
Fighters in ESPN P4P rating: Sterling (tied at No. 8)
Largest upcoming struggle: Sterling vs. TJ Dillashaw on Oct. 22
Should you’re a fan of the UFC’s 135-pound division, then the promotion’s upcoming summer season/fall schedule could have you salivating. Presently, eight of this division’s prime 10 contenders have fights booked within the coming months, together with the champion Sterling. And there are storylines galore inside these fights. Dillashaw will try to regain the title he was compelled to vacate after testing constructive for banned substances in 2019. The residing legend, Jose Aldo, has an necessary struggle on the books towards surging contender (and Sterling’s teammate) Merab Dvalishvili. One other legend, Dominick Cruz, has an equally necessary essential occasion in his hometown this weekend towards Marlon Vera. And, arguably the most important identify within the division, Sean O’Malley, just lately signed to face Petr Yan in October, in a matchup that caught many within the sport off-guard.
Past that, this weight class has a lot to look at for. Frankie Edgar has introduced he’d like a retirement struggle in November. Former champion Henry Cejudo is anticipated to rejoin the load class on the finish of the 12 months. Ricky Simon has proven top-10 potential and is on the cusp of realizing it. Umar Nurmagomedov seems to be like he might be an actual downside within the years to come back.
In a current interview with ESPN, Cruz mentioned that there are a number of champions at this weight; it is only a matter of who occurs to get the job executed on any given night time. It is easy to agree with him, there’s plenty of elite expertise right here. — Brett Okamoto
3. Males’s Featherweight: 145 kilos
Volkanovski confirmed his standing because the featherweight GOAT with a powerful victory over Holloway final month. Having settled their trilogy as soon as and for all — the scoreboard reads 3-0 — the massive query is: What comes subsequent for Volkanovski? He has his eyes on “Champ-Champ” standing with a transfer as much as light-weight. Given what he has achieved at featherweight, he has each proper to demand that chance. First, although, he has a broken hand to heal.
Ready within the wings at featherweight is Yair Rodriguez, who defeated Brian Ortega a couple of weeks in the past after Ortega dislocated his shoulder of their bout. Ortega will seemingly search a rematch. However he, like Rodriguez, is about for a big spell exterior the Octagon. There’s a excessive stage of uncertainty at featherweight shifting ahead on account of all that, with an interim showdown doubtlessly within the offing amid Volkanovski’s harm and plans. What’s abundantly clear, nonetheless, is that we need not see Volkanovski-Holloway 4. — Sam Bruce
4. Welterweight: 170 kilos
Earlier Rating: Tied at No. 4
Champion: Kamaru Usman
Fighters in ESPN P4P rating: Usman (No. 1)
Largest upcoming struggle: Usman vs. Leon Edwards on Aug. 20
In our final energy rankings, that is what we mentioned in regards to the 170-pounders: “If you wish to watch the perfect fighter in MMA immediately, you come to the welterweight division.” Nothing has modified there. Usman, No. 1 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings, can be going for his twentieth win in a row when he defends his belt towards Edwards at UFC 278 on Aug. 20. If Usman passes that take a look at, his subsequent one might be towards Khamzat Chimaev, if the high-profile contender will get previous Nate Diaz subsequent month.
Wanting past that huge struggle, a future title challenger might be decided by the October matchup between Belal Muhammad, who’s using an eight-fight unbeaten streak, and undefeated Sean Brady. Usman has his work lower out for him. — Jeff Wagenheim
5. Girls’s Strawweight: 115 kilos
Do not be fooled by the shortage of motion within the final title struggle. The strawweight prime 10 has loads of expertise and quite a lot of kinds. As we look ahead to the subsequent challenger for Esparza, there are rising contenders that can form the way forward for the division within the years to come back.
Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan have a essential occasion arising that may shake issues up, particularly if Dern, a BJJ standout and fan favourite, can win in a stable method. Additionally, Marina Rodriguez is dealing with Amanda Lemos at UFC 280, a struggle that may give Rodriguez the respect that she´s been asking for.
Esparza has the skillset to neutralize strikers like Namajunas or Weili, however she should concentrate on grapplers like Dern and Jessica Andrade who can be on the lookout for a title shot in any division. The class’s unranked fighters may lack expertise, however the prime 10 is full of expertise and each struggle might be entertaining. — Carlos Contreras Legaspi
6. Middleweight: 185 kilos
Earlier rating: No. 6
Champion: Israel Adesanya
Fighters in ESPN P4P rating: Adesanya (tied at No. 3)
Largest upcoming struggle: Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira on Nov. 12
Adesanya’s reign on the prime of the middleweights continues, however the largely flat title protection towards Jared Cannonier did little to quiet a rising legion of MMA followers lamenting for the times when the champ put the type in “Stylebender.” Adesanya defeated Cannonier through unanimous resolution, however there have been solely fleeting moments of the show-stopping highlights that had been the hallmark of his ascent to the highest of the division.
However ask, and also you shall obtain. Over the weekend, it was confirmed that Adesanya would face off with Pereira. Pereira is likely one of the few males to know what it feels wish to defeat Adesanya, having executed so twice, contained in the kickboxing ring. That struggle will headline UFC 281 and can be arguably essentially the most anticipated struggle of the 12 months. Within the meantime, Adesanya’s different nice rival, Robert Whittaker, faces off with Marvin Vettori subsequent month in Paris in a struggle that, pending the end result from Madison Sq. Backyard, might create a path again to a different title shot for both fighter. — Bruce
7. Heavyweight: 205-265 kilos
This division began the 12 months with plenty of promise — Ngannou vs. Gane headlined UFC 270 in January — however has been in a little bit of a holding sample. Ngannou continues to be out after knee surgical procedure and it is unclear if he’ll have the ability to return earlier than the top of 2022 or someday early subsequent 12 months. It appeared just like the UFC had a layup interim title matchup between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic all queued up, however that has not occurred. The UFC, sources mentioned, is ready to know extra about Ngannou earlier than making any choices. A bout between Ngannou, the baddest man on the planet, and Jones, the person with the perfect struggle résumé ever, could be a blockbuster.
The UFC London essential occasion between contenders Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall final month was speculated to carry additional readability to the highest of the heavyweight division, however Aspinall sustained a leg harm early within the first spherical and now there are extra questions than solutions. Blaydes believes he ought to transfer up the ladder with a victory, however he has been knocked out twice by Ngannou and as soon as by Derrick Lewis, who simply fell to upstart Sergei Pavlovich at UFC 277. Gane will attempt to get again into the title dialog towards fan favourite Tuivasa on the UFC’s first France card Sept. 3 in Paris, where Gane lives and trains. — Raimondi
8. Males’s Flyweight: 125 kilos
Earlier rating: No. 8
Champion: Deiveson Figueiredo, Brandon Moreno (interim)
Fighters in ESPN P4P rating: Figueiredo (No. 7)
Ten years after the division was launched within the UFC, it is wanting higher than ever. The rivalry between Moreno and Figueiredo can be settled within the fourth struggle subsequent, however expertise is ample within the 125-pound division.
Alexandre Pantoja could be a challenger sooner or later and Matt Schnell simply featured the perfect comeback within the division’s historical past. After Moreno vs. Figueiredo 4, there can be loads of choices for the division — one thing that the promotion couldn´t have imagined a couple of years in the past.
From veteran ranked fighters like Kai Kara-France, Alex Perez or Askar Askarov to future stars like Muhammad Mokaev, flyweights are quick, expert and entertaining. Count on plenty of nice fights shortly there.— Legaspi
9. Girls’s Bantamweight: 135 kilos
Earlier rating: No. 9
Champion: Amanda Nunes
Fighters in ESPN P4P rating: Amanda Nunes (No. 1), Julianna Peña (tied at No. 4)
Largest upcoming struggle: Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson on Sept. 10
Relying on the way you view it, Peña both did this division an enormous favor or disservice during the last eight months. On the one hand, she seems to have reignited a fireplace in Nunes that seemed prefer it was beginning to wane. By taking Nunes’ belt in December, Peña motivated Nunes in a approach she hadn’t been in years. And the followers of this sport reaped the rewards as a result of all of us received to see Nunes elevate her recreation within the rematch in July. Have you learnt who may not have benefitted from that? The opposite contenders on this division who will look to take Nunes’ belt within the coming 12 months(s).
As soon as once more, this division is totally centered round Nunes. Probably the most intriguing storylines revolve round who may earn a shot towards her subsequent and what possibilities that fighter might need. For the time being, the highest two names to regulate are Ketlen Vieira and Aldana. Nunes has not fought both one, and each pose their issues. They’re each huge and athletic bantamweights. They every possess ending prowess. And naturally, you even have the potential of a Peña trilogy within the close to (or distant) future. For nearly as good as Nunes is, and for so long as she’s been dominant, these are all professional choices for title defenses. It sounds unattainable, however there’s nonetheless work for her to do within the division. — Okamoto
10. Gentle Heavyweight: 205 kilos
Earlier rating: No. 10
Champion: Jiri Prochazka
Fighters in ESPN P4P rating: Prochazka (No. 6)
There’s been a altering of the guard on the prime of the division since our final rankings, as Prochazka took the championship away from Glover Teixeira in June. That instability opens up many prospects. Will the brand new champ’s first title protection be a rematch towards Teixeira? Or will the title shot go to Magomed Ankalaev, whose knockout of Anthony Smith per week in the past was his ninth straight victory? Additionally ready his flip is one other former champion, Jan Blachowicz. And the way about Jamahal Hill? His gritty fourth-round end of former title challenger Thiago Santos on Saturday will not put him right into a title bout straight away, however what a future he has. As does the 205-pound division normally. — Wagenheim
11. Girls’s Flyweight: 125 kilos
For the primary time ever, Shevchenko seemed susceptible in her title protection towards Taila Santos in June. The all the time dominant flyweight champion barely squeaked by Santos through break up resolution. Many inside the sport felt Shevchenko misplaced that struggle. And extra nonetheless, imagine she was on her approach to shedding that struggle earlier than Santos was compromised by a facial harm ensuing from an unintended headbutt. Now, simply because Shevchenko had a detailed title protection, does that imply she’s misplaced a step? Quite the opposite, it nearly looks like that was the night time for somebody to beat her, and Santos nonetheless fell simply brief. Expectations shifting ahead are nonetheless excessive for Shevchenko.
On one hand, she is operating out of choices. Shevchenko has already defeated every of the highest 4 girls ranked under her. We had been speculated to see an necessary struggle between Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araujo this weekend, however that struggle fell by way of just lately when Grasso was compelled to withdraw. Nonetheless, a bunch of younger expertise is making its approach as much as Shevchenko. That features budding contenders like Grasso (28 years outdated), Manon Fiorot (32), Maycee Barber (24), Casey O’Neill (24), Erin Blanchfield (23) and Tracy Cortez (28). Shevchenko could be an enormous favourite over every of them, however as you may see by their ages, this division has younger expertise with loads of upside to observe. — Okamoto
12. Girls’s Featherweight: 145 kilos
One lingering query stays for the “champ-champ” Amanda Nunes — which title will she defend subsequent? After Nunes dethroned Julianna Peña to reclaim her bantamweight title, Peña proclaimed she’s “able to go spherical 8 proper now,” in the course of the UFC Vegas 59 post-fight present. However what about her title at 145? Would the UFC contemplate placing somebody like Macy Chiasson towards Nunes early subsequent 12 months? Might the promotion look exterior like they’ve executed up to now like Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer? Regardless of the UFC decides, the division’s destiny might be at stake in consequence. — Eddie Maisonet